“Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself,” says author Pat Conroy. His insight echoes the sentiments of generations of writers through the centuries. Writing has always been a means to understanding oneself and the world, a way to express and clarify hopes and fears, grief, sadness, anxiety, happiness, and joy.
Many of the world’s greatest writers didn’t write for others, or to make money, they wrote because it made them feel better and brought them peace of mind. Many writers thought of writing as a way of having a personal conversation with God. Says writer Kristin Armstrong, “I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption.
I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.” In short, writing has always been a way of securing good mental health. And modern science has proven those intuitive impressions to be factually true.
Writing for Mental and Physical Wellness
Many studies have been conducted to explore the physical and psychological benefits of regular writing. Evidence shows that writing can help to reduce stress and anxiety, to prioritize and clarify problems and concerns, to track emotions and symptoms from day to day, identify negative emotions and thoughts, and to help one come to terms with grief and sorrow.
Writing helps a person to understand themselves better, and their relationships with those around them. In brief, writing provides a means to get in better touch with oneself, to come to terms with stressful life events, and to better enjoy the good ones, the foundation of good mental health.
And that contributes to good physical health. Regular expressive writing has been shown to strengthen the immune system, alleviate the symptoms of asthma, arthritis, and migraines, lower high blood pressure, and has even shown positive benefits for those struggling with cancer and HIV.
How To Turn Writing Into a Healthy Habit
Writing can be an important part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet, exercise, avoidance of drugs and alcohol, meditation, and sufficient sleep. To some it comes easily, indeed many feel compelled to write. To others, making it a routine part of their lives requires some effort. A few basic guidelines have been proven useful:
- Try to write a little every day. It often helps to set aside some time at the same time each day. Even just 15 minutes is beneficial. But don’t force it, if you really don’t want to write one day, just take it up on the next. But do try every day.
- Keep a pen and notepad handy all the time. Be ready to write down thoughts and observations whenever they strike you.
- Write whatever you feel. It doesn’t have to even make sense, let your thoughts and emotions flow. You’re the only one who ever has to see what you write. This is for yourself.
- Start a blog. Blogging can be a powerful incentive to write on a regular basis. And it’s a great way to meet like-minded people to share insights and encouragement with.
To find out more about writing as a part of coping with substance abuse or mental illness, contact Avalon Malibu for professional consultation and to explore other treatment options.